The Detroit Red Wings prospect pool is overflowing with players, but quantity is sometimes mistaken for quality. This was the first year in a long time that I wasn’t excited to watch some Wings prospects in the World Juniors that would generally entertain me and other Wings fans. No one truly popped out to me as a must-watch player to see what he could do for his international team. I contributed to the hype around Vili Saarijarvi before the tournament last year; Mantha and Larkin years prior as well. This year felt emotionally different.
Regardless of my personal feelings and the impending doom of this franchise – four of our beloved Red Wings-drafted players featured in the tournament.
D Gustav Lindstrom
Touted as potentially the “next Anton Stralman”, Gustav Lindstrom’s Sweden made it all the way to the Gold Medal Game and with him playing a steady role throughout the tournament. His position as the 5/6 d-man was unchanged throughout the couple of weeks. It is certainly hard to move up in the lineup with the likes of Timothy Liljegren, Erik Brannstrom and the unquestioned 1st-overall pick in this upcoming NHL Entry Draft – Rasmus Dahlin – all ahead of you on the depth chart.
He did make a few bad decisions in the Gold Medal Game and caused his team to be on the other end of a Canada powerplay not once, but twice.
As Nick Seguin pointed out previously, any experience like this is beneficial for the young Lindstrom. He finished the tournament with one assist and four shots on goal, in seven games.
G Filip Larsson
The prospect with the least amount of ice-time was certainly Swedish netminder, Filip Larsson. Serving as Pittsburgh Penguins prospect, Felix Gustavsson’s backup for the whole tournament was quite a hard job for Larsson. Only getting to start one game against Switzerland, which his team won 7-2, must have been quite boring.
You can’t blame Head Coach Tomas Monten for his decision though, Gustavsson looked like one of Djursholm Castle’s might walls out there for his country. It would have been tough to beat him out for the job more than once.
He let in two goals on twenty-two shots against for a sv% of .909, in that one game.
D Kasper Kotkansalo
The Finn playing for Boston University headed into the tournament with high hopes of a medal. I certainly thought Finland were the team to beat if they got their forwards rolling. That depth on defence was a thing of beauty. Much like Sweden, it was packed to the brim with potential stars. Valimaki, Heiskanen, Jokiharju, Salo and Vaakanainen is some group of players that any team would love to have on their back-end. Olli Juolevi also played.
Similar to Lindstrom, Kotkansalo could have been described as “solid” this whole tournament. No major errors, but he didn’t shine either. This isn’t a make-or-break tournament for prospects and Kotkansalo has time to develop like most Red Wings prospects. According to collegehockeynews.com, he has contributed two goals and five points to his Boston University team this season in 19 games so far for the Terriers. Putting 34 pucks on the net and only going to the box four times in 19 games isn’t too shabby either.
In this shorter-than-usual tournament appearance by Finland, Kotkansalo was pointless in the five games he played. Myself and many others were disappointed by this Finnish team and that can reflect in the pointless-ness of their bottom defensive pairing. What do you expect from a player playing less than a third of the game for an under-performing team?
D Malte Setkov
The Red Wings sure do love their European defenceman prospects. Tied for the highest-scorer of every Wings prospect at this tournament with two whole points, Malte Setkov played a slightly bigger role than the other two defencemen representing the Red Wings.
Since the IIHF is terrible at keeping time-on-ice statistics for this tournament, I have only a couple things to go off on for how much the team used certain players. I hate myself for even writing this, but I’m going to use plus/minus to analyze a player. Setkov had a total -9 in the six games he played, good for the worst plus/minus rating on the entire team.
Either he was used in a lot of defensive situations by Head Coach Olaf Eller, or he was incredibly unlucky. Having confidence in a pairing to put them out there for most of the time against is a big boost for those players. Hopefully Setkov learns from this experience. He’s a big boy at 6’6″ and can skate fairly well for his size – so there’s hope.
So What Now?
As I sink into my chair thinking of how poorly the Red Wings were represented at the World Juniors, I look over to my sidetable and smile fondly at Zetterberg. My framed picture of my second dad reminds me that there is hope for it to get better and some young stud to come out of nowhere and bring the Red Wings back to glory.
Help me Z, you’re my only hope.